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Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill: WAGs more than welcome at our Euro camp in France

By Steven Beacom

Published 26/04/2016

Girls allowed: Jonny Evans and his wife Helen, alongside Coleen Rooney, wife of England and Manchester United captain, Wayne
Girls allowed: Jonny Evans and his wife Helen, alongside Coleen Rooney, wife of England and Manchester United captain, Wayne

Michael O'Neill has insisted that wives, girlfriends and family members will be welcome at the Northern Ireland team hotel during the Euro 2016 finals.

Last month, Chris Coleman stated that WAGs would be banned from the Welsh base in the early stages of the tournament while Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill joked that it would "depend on how good-looking the girls are" when asked if his players' partners would be allowed into his team's camp in France.

The younger O'Neill opted for a straight answer, saying that players would be given the opportunity to spend time with their families, adding that he wanted the Northern Ireland boys to enjoy the tournament experience as much as possible.

O'Neill, whose wife Bronagh and daughters Erin and Olivia will travel to France from their Edinburgh home for Northern Ireland's final two group games against Ukraine and Germany, said: "I have discussed it with the players and if their families are in France they will have access to their wives, kids and families.

"For me Euro 2016 has to be a positive experience for our players. Sometimes after tournaments you hear comments from players of some bigger nations, like England, saying they couldn't wait to come home.

"I would hate for our players to say it was a terrible experience because the experience has to be positive so they would want to aspire to go there again.

"For the bigger nations who go to tournaments all the time their players are more regimented and know that they won't have access to their families but for us I don't believe that would work.

"Our players aren't used to a strict regime and wouldn't respond to that. They would be unhappy. That is the worst thing you could make them.

"I've already spoken to (captain) Steven (Davis) and when the squad comes together ahead of the tournament we'll map out what will be family days.

"It is kind of tricky because we won't always be where we'll play the games, but if the families are in the vicinity of the base we will allow them to see the players.

"The idea that players couldn't see their families wouldn't sit well with me. After all, what do players do when they are at their clubs? They would see their family the day before or on the morning of a game. We won't have families in all the time because we are there to do a job and we will be professional about it, but I don't want to operate a strict regime because with our players I don't believe it would work."

At past tournaments involving England, famous WAGs such as Victoria Beckham (David Beckham's wife), Cheryl Cole (formerly Ashley Cole's wife) and Coleen Rooney (Wayne Rooney's wife) received almost as much newspaper coverage as the players themselves.

The Northern Ireland wives and girlfriends are unlikely to create as much of a stir because few are in the public eye. The most well known would be Scottish model Vanessa Chung, fiancée of striker Kyle Lafferty, and MUTV presenter Helen Evans, wife of defender Jonny.

Belfast Telegraph

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